Contact: Victoria Winkelman or Kami Duncan
SMU Meadows School of the Arts
(214) 768-3785 or (214) 768-2788

November 25, 2002


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Sayako KusakaDALLAS (SMU) -- Sayako Kusaka, a 23-year-old virtuoso studying for the Artist Certificate in violin at the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, won first prize in the 21st Rodolfo Lipizer International Violin Competition held recently in Gorizia, Italy. She also won six special prizes -- the maximum for which she was eligible -- including awards for best performances of Bach, Mozart, contemporary compositions and more.

The top prize in the competition, which is considered one of the most prestigious in the world, was awarded by a distinguished seven-member international jury including Jean Lenert of France, Irina Bochkova of Russia, Leon Spierer of Germany and Felix Ayo of Italy.

Ms. Kusaka is a student of Eduard Schmieder, the Algur H. Meadows Distinguished Professor of Violin and Chamber Music at SMU and a renowned concert violinist. Another of Mr. Schmieder's students, Vadim Tchijik, placed fifth in the Lipizer competition; as a result, he was offered and accepted a teaching appointment at the Paris Conservatory.

Ms. Kusaka is one of 17 of Mr. Schmieder's students at the Meadows School of the Arts who have been prizewinners and laureates at major international violin competitions within the past decade, including the Queen Elizabeth, Premio Paganini and Jacques Thibaud International Violin Competitions.

A native of Osaka, Japan, Sayako Kusaka graduated from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and received a master's degree at Kansai Gaida University. Within the past several years she has won top prizes from other prestigious international competitions, including the 8th Jean Sibelius competition in Finland, the Premio Paganini in Italy and the Pablo de Sarasate in Spain. In Japan, she has won numerous awards including first place at the 69th Japan Music Competition. She has performed as a soloist internationally with orchestras in London, St. Petersburg, Tokyo and Los Angeles, as well as with the Meadows Symphony Orchestra at SMU. In addition, she was selected as a soloist by Young Artists International and was featured in the International Laureates Festival in Los Angeles in 2001 and 2002 as a soloist with the I Palpiti orchestra under the direction of Mr. Schmieder. Her recordings are available on the YAI label.

First prize in the Rodolfo Lipizer competition includes an award of $8,000 and a medal from the president of Italy. Ms. Kusaka was also chosen to receive a new violin from the Antonio Stradivari violin-making school in Cremona. In addition, she received engagements for 20 solo recitals and 25 concerts with orchestras in Europe.

Violinists from around the world applied to play at the 10-day competition. Fifty-nine were selected to compete, 15 were admitted to the second round, and six became finalists.

The Rodolfo Lipizer International Violin Competition began in 1982 and is held annually in honor of Rodolfo Lipizer (1895-1974), a renowned Italian violinist, conductor and educator.